Another date in Cali on this west coast road trip tonight, and unlike the previous ones, the reception will likely be a little more hostile. Unlike the Ducks and Kings, the Sharks regularly fill their arena, so the rabid Canucks fans following the team on this trip will likely be a little less noticeable. Tonight could see the Canucks get their first look at Chris Higgins, as well as welcoming Mason Raymond back after hurting his shoulder against Anaheim Sunday night. Cory Schneider will start tonight, and given the Canucks' schedule down the road I wouldn't be surprised to see Alain Vigneault alternate Ginger Bricks and Roberto Luongo the rest of the way to keep Luongo rested for the upcoming playoffs.
So far this road trip has had a ton of positives. The team seems to have gotten their swagger back, they've gotten some great performances from the first and 3rd lines, and the goaltending is solid. Now what to do about Line # 2? Ryan Kesler's play of late has been so ineffective, it's actually hampered the revitalized play of Mason Raymond and Mikael Samuelsson. Team sources insist he isn't playing hurt, but as hot as he was all season, he's now ice cold. Whatever the problem is, the Canucks could really use a break out game from Kes as they face a tough challenge in the Sharks.
At one point they looked like they might struggle to make the playoffs, but have been red hot as of late, going 9-1-0 in their last 10 games. The key for the Canucks is simple. Get on the board early and take their fans out of it, and continue the basic fundamentals that they've done so well on the trip thus far. They really have looked dangerous activating their defence, as Dan Hamhuis showed against Phoenix, and we can expect him, Christian Ehrhoff and Sami Salo to continue to look for chances.
San Jose's PP is decent, but their PK is currently sitting at 81%, and the Canucks are much better 5 on 5 than the Sharks, so staying out of the box and taking advantage of their power play chances would serve them well. The Sharks don't give up a lot of shots though, so the Canucks will have to try and power them through a tough and mobile Sharks defence.
Well it certainly looks like Gary Bettman and Co. found just the thing to take the focus off the shitstorm that is the attempted salvation of the Phoenix Coyotes franchise in the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty. With the news that Air Canada may pull it's sponsorship unless headshots are addressed and the Montreal police opening an investigation into the hit this one isn't gonna go away quietly. A simple token suspension would have solved all of this... If the Dallas Stars miss the playoffs, one thing they will look back on is getting swept by both the Canucks and Calgary Flames. The Flames picked up win number 4 against Dallas last night in the shootout. And should the Flames make the dance, I would think sending Bettman some candy would be in order. The Flames won their league leading 8th shootout last night. That is one of the reasons they're in contention, though it won't be there to help them in the post-season...
WAACH 'Cast's Band Of The Day- SACRIFICE
This legendary Canadian thrash act reunited in 2009, unleashing their 5th album 'The Ones I Condemn'. The Toronto based act were very influential, creating some of this country's finest metal moments. They should be working on a new album soon...